Picture this…. you are in the grocery store with your toddler, your toddler is happily sorting packages of crackers on the shelf while you load your basket with items beside her, then when you look down to check on her, there is a lady crouched down beside her, two feet from you, taking her photo. What if that lady then explained that she was taking the photo because your toddler was “so beautiful!”? What if she explained she was taking the photo because your toddler was “so white!”? What if she explained she was taking the photo because your toddler was “so dark!” Are any of these okay?
My daughter is the only completely (both parents) Caucasian baby/toddler in the town where we live. I didn’t even realize or think about this until a few days ago, because it doesn’t matter. At least, it doesn’t matter to me, and shouldn’t matter to anyone else. But it seems to.
Since Lids was just weeks old, we have had people stop and ask (or not ask) to take photos of her, with her, of their children with her, all because she is so beautiful, because she looks like a little doll, because she is……. sooooo white!! Just this past week she has had her photo taken twice; once at the grocery store by one of the cashiers, and once at a park by another mum who took photos of her on her own, then also with her son of a similar age. (None of whom asked before taking photos).
To some people, this might seem crazy and unacceptable. When I stop and really think about it, I have to agree. Imagine this in the USA.. imagine if it was a man taking the photo… imagine if her minority status wasn’t white. Imagine if went down and started taking photos of toddlers playing in the park in the middle of Boston because I thought they were beautiful?! Imagine if I started taking photos of Haitian toddlers in the park here in town because I thought they were beautiful? Wait…people do that. Tourists do that everyday here. Heck, I hate to admit it but I am sure I did it on my trips to South America years ago. People do it all the time without a second thought. They are driving by on a tour bus through the ‘real Dominican Republic’ and spot a couple of half dressed Haitian kids carrying a bucket of water home for their mum to make their dinner, and they snap away. “What a great photo for my scrapbook of the trip!” they declare without a thought as to whether it is okay or whether those kids want their photo taken or if their parents would approve. And it isn’t just Haitian kids.. but tourists tend to think, ‘the poorer, the better’ when it comes to photo opportunities, sadly landing Haitians as prime photo candidates. But Dominicans get it too. Fully dressed kids walking to school in their adorable uniforms… or completely naked toddlers bathing in a bucket in their yard, as many do. For the tourists, I am sure that in 99.9% of cases, they mean no harm at all, but they also aren’t thinking of those kids in the same way they would think of their own. That is what I believe anyway. But the truth is, those kids are no different than their own. Those kids are my neighbours, my students, my daughters’ best friends.
So is it okay for Dominicans/Haitians to take photos of my daughter without my permission? Imagine if my daughter was naked? Would that be okay?? Should it be okay for Americans/Canadians/Brits to take photos of Dominican/Haitian children without their permission? What is that teaching their children? What is that teaching my child? And it isn’t just the photographs. Lids is called the ‘princess’ or the ‘queen’ by many here in town. At her daycare, we had major issues with them carrying her everywhere in the first few months (when she was around a year old). All things I am not okay with, but how can we convince them to treat our children how we want them to be treated if we can’t show the same respect to theirs. And I use the term ‘we’ knowing that the ‘we’s involved are not the same people, but we as a group have a responsibility.
Racism in this country is alive and strong. It doesn’t always have the same appearance as we see in our home countries, but it is here, and possibly even worse. Here it isn’t a case of black and white. It is a case of the lighter your skin, the ‘better’, more beautiful you are. Somehow, we need to show them that this isn’t the case, that we are all equal. Setting the right example is a great start. If you wouldn’t want it done to you (or your children), don’t do it to them (or their children). Equality people. We are, of course, ‘all potatoes at heart’.
Thanks for introducing as to these thought provoking little fellas, SRB! 😉